Slaying Leopards, Narnia and My Powerlifting Total

What does my powerlifting total have to do with Narnia or even leopards? A lot. It also has to do with my grand uncle who manned up when he found himself in a tight spot.

A Little Background

I’ve been struggling with my lifts lately.  When I was just exercising to get in shape, whatever that really means; I could lift alone in my garage without much trouble.  Now I am training for a sport. I have specific goals and specific rules and techniques to master.

My obstacles are: work schedule, training environment, family obligations

Work Schedule

My Iron Journey is built around a night time work schedule of 12 hour shifts and day time blogging and interviews. I am a writer who also works a regular job to pay bills while I build my dream of being a full-time writer. I can’t just quit my job and if I abandon my dream, I might as well open up my veins in a warm bath.

Training Environment

I train at home.  With my family members if they’re training for something, alone when they’re not.  I am blessed to share a home with my lovely wife, my mother, and our kids, three boys and a girl who range in age from 9 months to 18 years. Crowded? Sure. In the past, this didn’t matter.  My wife was competing in triathlons and my kids were training for wrestling.  In their off seasons, they’d stop lifting but still come downstairs to visit. I often trained while listening to homework complaints, talking about this or that event from the work day, planning the weekend.  Now I must focus.

Family Obligations

The solution to the training environment issue seems simple really; I already have a coach; why not just go train with the team? That goes back to my work schedule. I originally began training at home so I wouldn’t be out of the house longer.  If I worked 12 hours, used my off time to do interviews and then spent an additional nine hours outside the home pursuing powerlifting excellence (drive time plus training time); I’d likely be spending a few hours in either marriage counseling or divorce court.

No complaints. Just facing reality. We all have an Iron Journey. Mine just follows a different path. I’m neither a twenty year old bachelor nor even a thirty year old newlywed with only two kids.

What to do?

I just watched The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe again and there’s a scene where Aslan prevents the others from helping Peter kill a giant Wolf. “This is Peter’s battle,” the great Lion said.

And that reminded me of a story.

My Grand Uncle Jah lived in the densely forested region of upcountry Liberia in West Africa. At the time, the region was pretty isolated from the more urban region near the coast.

Picture the area along the Appalachian Trail versus the Maryland suburbs outside Washington, DC and you’ll get the idea.  In any case, at the time of the story, someone had wounded a wild leopard but couldn’t finish it off.  A wounded leopard is incredibly dangerous to people. Not strong enough to hunt its normal prey, it would soon begin snatching those too weak to fight it off. Young children. The elderly. Something had to be done.

Grand Uncle Jah led a band of men into the forest to find the wounded animal and put it out of its misery before it was too late.  As they passed under a tree, the tables were turned and the leopard, which had sought high ground for safety, leapt out of the tree directly onto Uncle Jah!  “Shoot it! Shoot it!” he screamed over and over to the other hunters. They hesitated, not wanting to hit him by mistake.  My grand uncle rolled around with 135 pounds of teeth and claws, gouging at his back, seeking his throat in one last hate filled attack against the two legs who had caused it such agony.  It seemed hopeless.

But Uncle Jah seized his knife in one last desperate attempt at life. Eye for eye. Stab for slash. Throat for throat. Blood pooled freely from both of them until in the end only one stood victorious.  The great beast left life on its own terms, not in a sad hole quietly gnawed upon by scavengers but at the hand of a fellow hunter.  Uncle Jah lived to be 114 years old and always bore the proud trophies of that day.  Giant claw marks along his entire back and torso and a leopard skin cloak that he pulled close on chilly mornings as he waited for my mother, then a little girl to bring him his whiskey laced tea.

I have his blood in my veins. This is not a problem that I can look to other experts to help me with. This is my battle to fight the Great Lion is saying to me.  I cannot abandon this contest; for it is my life.  I have to slay the leopard if I want my trophies.

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on